Media statement: Testing of imported honey

7 September 2018

(Issued by Department of Agriculture)

Updated: 12 September 2018​​

At the border, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has responsibility for managing biosecurity and food safety risks, including compliance with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

With respect to honey, no biosecurity or food safety issues have been identified.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is responsible for enforcing the Australian Consumer Law, which includes prohibitions on suppliers of products making false or misleading representations about the composition of their products.

The department currently tests imported honey using a ‘C4 sugar analysis’, which is the internationally recognised approach to detect if certain sugars have been added. This includes C4 sugars, such as sugar cane or corn syrup.

The department has been evaluating for some time the use of other laboratory analytical methods to verify the integrity of imported honey, including Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) which can detect C3 sugars, such as sugar beet syrup. This would significantly improve the department’s testing.

Inspection rates for imported honey will be increased where there is reason to believe products are being adulterated.

Australia does not currently have a laboratory capable of performing NMR analysis. This is because there is currently no internationally accepted database to support NMR analysis, nor the expertise required to interpret the results for regulatory purposes.

In short, NMR testing is not yet able to be used in Australia as a reliable testing tool on its own for regulatory purposes.

Once imported honey has been released onto the domestic market it is subject to regulation under the relevant state and territory government.

All food for sale, whether imported or domestically produced, must comply with the Food Standards Code, which is enforced by the states and territories within Australia.

Anyone that suspects the honey they have bought is fake should raise this with the place of purchase, and then the ACCC or state and territory food regulators.

As background

  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is a statutory authority in the Australian Government that develops food standards for Australia and New Zealand.
  • The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code is enforced by state and territory departments, agencies and local councils in Australia, which includes ensuring food products for sale within Australia are as stated on their label or packet.
  • Concerns relating to mislabelling of honey products for retail sale are being investigated by the ACCC in respect of any potential breach of consumer laws.